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Maharashtra flood death toll rises to 50; situation eases

Cleaning campaign: Residents clean their surroundings following recession of flood waters at Ambewadi village in Kolhapur district on Wednesday.

Cleaning campaign: Residents clean their surroundings following recession of flood waters at Ambewadi village in Kolhapur district on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

329 medical teams keeping 24-hour vigil

The total death toll in the past three weeks arising from flood or rain-related accidents across five districts in western Maharashtra has risen to 50 even as floodwaters have markedly receded in Sangli and Kolhapur.

A majority of these casualties – 34 deaths - are from Sangli and Kolhapur, said authorities.

According to Pune Divisional Commissioner Dr. Deepak Mhaisekar, around 6.70 lakh persons from 425 villages in Kolhapur and Sangli were evacuated to shelters, while more than 7.10 lakh persons across five districts including Satara, Pune and Solapur had so far been relocated to temporary relief shelters with 329 medical teams working round-the-clock in these parts to prevent any major epidemic outbreak.

In a jibe at Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, State Housing Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil on Thursday said some leaders were behaving as ‘know-alls’ despite the State government doing everything for the flood-afflicted.

“The State government is doing good work in efficiently providing relief to flood-hit areas. Yet, some Opposition leaders are behaving as if they only they are in the know of things and the State government is clueless,” said Mr. Vikhe-Patil, referring to his arch rival Mr. Pawar without taking the NCP chief’s name.

The former Congressman was speaking in Nashik during an Independence Day function.

“The floods have destroyed several acres of crop and killed thousands of livestock. Farmers and residents of Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara are the most afflicted. While it is the opposition’s job to criticize the ruling party, this catastrophe is not the occasion for playing politics…and I say this knowing well that I too was once Leader of Opposition [of the Legislative Assembly],” said Mr. Vikhe-Patil.

According to authorities, more than 7,800 livestock including cattle, sheep and goats were killed by the deluge as their owners were unable to move them to safety zones in time.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pawar, who is on a tour of the worst-hit areas in Kolhapur district, met with several flood-afflicted people in Karvir, Ambewadi and Chikhali areas.

“I will personally urge the Central and the State governments to ensure complete loan waiver for farmers and financial help in rebuilding houses destroyed by the floods… I urge all of you [flood-hit citizens] to keep up your courage in these trying times. The whole of Maharashtra stands resolutely behind you all,” said the NCP chief, speaking in Ambewadi.

He further said that he would be sending a team of scientists and agriculturists from the Pune-based Vasantdada Sugar Institute to study the extensive damage to the sugarcane crop in Sangli and Kolhapur districts which constitute the prime areas of the State’s sugar-producing belt.

“I am concerned for the immediate security of agricultural labourers as they will not be able to get any work for the next couple of months at least, what with farms and fields utterly ravaged. I will urge the State government to give them special financial aid in order to tide them over this crisis,” said Mr. Pawar, reassuring flood-stricken populace of Chikhali.

However, Minister of State for Agriculture, Sadabhau Khot hit out at Mr. Pawar and the NCP, dubbing their “sudden concern” for the flood-ravaged people as nothing but “empty and phoney sympathy”.

“The NCP has no interest in offering succor for the victims of the deluge. They are only concerned about retaining their seats in western Maharashtra and hence their leaders are conducting token visits to these parts. If they really were concerned about the preventing a flood, then why had not NCP leaders made requisite arrangements and taken precautions in 2005 itself to prevent another deluge,” said Mr. Khot, speaking in Wardha.

While the main rivers in Kolhapur and Sangli – the Panchganga and the Krishna - were now flowing below their danger levels of 45 ft. and 43 ft respectively, 60 roads and 25 bridges in these districts still remained shut for traffic.

While politicians traded barbs over the deluge and ruling and opposition leaders vied engaged in a ‘sensitivity contest’ over the flood-afflicted, the economic wreckage of the floods failed to dampen the spirits of the citizens of Kolhapur and Sangli as they celebrated Independence Day with gusto.

Young children in some of the most acutely flood-hit areas like Kurundwad in Kolhapur and Miraj in Sangli, whose uniforms and books were washed away by the floods, turned up in large numbers for the flag-hoisting event in their respective schools.

In many cases, children participated in a cleanliness drive before the main flag-hoisting event. Rousing I-day events were also witnessed in several transit camps.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 3:18:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/maharashtra-flood-death-toll-rises-to-50-situation-eases/article29103469.ece

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